BEYOND WEAK CENTRAL COHERENCE
Considerable efforts have been directed towards understanding the key neurocognitive atypicalities underlying the defining behaviors of autism, including difficulties in social communication and limitations in behavioral flexibility. This chapter discusses one prominent theoretical account, which postulates that people with autism display “weak central coherence,” a local processing bias combined with difficulties integrating information in context. Drawing upon relevant empirical work, it provides a thorough critical analysis of the theory's central claims. It shows that, despite its popularity, the theory fails consistently to provide a persuasive account of information processing and attentional focus in autism. The chapter ends with a consideration of alternative models of information processing in autism, including a new account that suggests that perceptual and cognitive differences in autism might be caused by pervasive problems in adaptation—those processes fundamental for adjusting to changing sensory inputs.
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